Glass House Freedom

I was having trouble falling asleep last night . . . eleven, twelve, one, two. Had no choice but to reach for my last resort, reading. In these moments, desperate agnostics get spiritual. Along the lines of "God, if you're there, give me a sign." I opened up Tomas Tranströmer's Bright Scythe (translated by Patty Crane) to "Allegro."

I play Haydn after a black day
and feel a simple warmth in my hands.

I don't play Haydn, but it had been a black day. Couldn't turn off my brain as thoughts about the Educational Industrial Complex churned in my brain.

The tone says that freedom exists
and someone isn't paying the emperor's tax

The tone says freedom exists. Someone isn't paying the emperor's tax, the tax that I am paying in the currency of stress.

The music is a glass house on a slope
where stones are flying, stones are rolling.

I am a glass house too.

And the stones roll straight through
but every pane remains whole.

Every pane remains whole. In that moment I visualized the stones passing through my walls without shattering the panes of glass. The stones will fly. The stones will roll, but they cannot break me if I let them pass through.

I returned to bed and fell asleep with that image in my mind narrated with the refrain, freedom exists.

Samurai Smashwords Summer Sale

I received an invite from Smashwords to participate in their Summer Sale and thought, why not? Even though I have actually been tempted to raise the price of The Samurai Poet (the old quality=price conundrum), with the US dollar so strong right now, I'm willing to try discounting the novel to its lowest price ever. It's so low, I can't even say the price here without blanching, but I will tell you it's 50% off with coupon until July 31, 2016. The coupon code is SSW50. Here's a direct link to the site: Smashwords

Of course, if you're feeling guilty about buying such a well written novel for so little, you can buy it at regular price through popular retail channels such as Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

5 Spelling Mistakes

I'm currently in the process of preparing a U.S. edition of The Samurai Poet that will be made available exclusively on Amazon for the Kindle. The text will be all but identical to the international edition released in 2013, incorporating all the edits up to the current edition (1.3.1). All but identical save for Americanized spelling of words such as labour (labor) and signalling (signaling). The only word I substituted was the Canadian word eavestroughs for "rain catchers," which to my ear sounds more poetic than the American equivalent, rain gutters.

Over the course of running the spell check, I screened out 5 more tiny (and I mean tiny, like the matter of a single letter or a space) spelling mistakes that were not caught during previous efforts. I find it incredible to think that of all the times I read the text and spellchecked it with computer assistance that these few grains of sand still slipped through. Human error is understandable insofar as our brains tend to read the word we expect to see, not the one printed, but it did not occur to me until now that the spellcheckers built into word processors are likely improved with each software release, leading to these new discoveries down the line.

So here I am, announcing another update to The Samurai Poet. If you bought your copy through Apple, you will receive an update notification shortly (I love this about Apple's iBookstore). If you bought it through Smashwords, you will have to access the update by logging into your account should you be so inclined.

As for the U.S. Edition itself, it is practically ready to go but until I am able to sort out some procedural tax forms with the IRS, it will not be released anytime soon. If you are a Kindle reader though, please remember that you can always purchase a Kindle MOBI edition at Smashwords. Thanks again for your support, and remember to check back here once in a while for updates.

Revealing Reviews

It may be axiomatic that there is no bad press, but two reader reviews have been welcome for more than the book discussion they have started (Full disclosure: I have met neither reader, but did invite each of them to post a review upon learning they owned The Samurai Poet). The first reviewer liked the first part of the novel, but had no use for the second part, calling it "comparatively directionless." On the other hand, the second reviewer saw the first part as something to be read through with "patience," with the reward being the latter part of the novel in which the main character's reflections acted as a catalyst for the reader's own.

The criticism did not bother me—in fact I welcomed their openness. If anything, it made the complimentary portions of their respective reviews seem all the more sincere. What fascinated me was the possible underlying gender dynamics that might have been at work. Allow me to explain.

The novel is divided into three Books: "Yang/Activity," "Yin/Quiescence," and "Unity." While writing the novel I realized how cliched it might look for a Western author to hone in on the Yang Yin dichotomy and deploy it in a superficial manner. Given my readings in Chinese and Japanese philosophy, I felt like it was an idea the novel explored in a nuanced manner and which was appropriate to the worldview of the main character, so I committed to it.

While I have no intent to provide a thorough summary of Yang and Yin, it is necessary to note that historically Yang was sometimes associated with males and Yin with females. Given this traditional association, I couldn't help but wonder if it was a coincidence or not that the male reviewer preferred the "Yang" section and that the female reviewer preferred the "Yin." I don't want to make too big a deal about it or fall into the trap of essentializing anyone, but it does make me curious to read more reviews and see what a larger reader community makes of it. Is it destined to divide people based on taste? Will readers emerge that like how the style of each Book changes to suit the content of the section? Or do the three Books contrast too much to fulfil the ambition I was hoping to realize?

It's a question I can't answer, but I can still hope it finds a large enough audience that a consensus emerges for me to reflect upon. If you would like to add your voice to the discussion, I encourage you to share a few words at Goodreads and/or at the site where you purchased your copy. Thank you in advance.

N.B. In related news, I have added a Goodreads review widget to The Samurai Poet page of the web site so that you can see the full reviews for yourself. Here's a hot link for quick access—just scroll to the bottom of the page for the reviews.

A Small, But Important Revision

I recently finished reading Samuel Hawley's book about Japan's 16th century invasion of Korea, The Imjin War. It was a book I had intended to read long ago, but was foiled by a small print run that led to an early sell out and exorbitant after market prices. Once it was released as an ebook, both issues were resolved and I was able to buy it last year. Unfortunately for me, I did not clear time to read it until March. If I had read it sooner, I could have saved myself making a third distinct revision of The Samurai Poet.

It's not that his book had me rethinking entire passages of the novel. I was well aware that I was fudging history when I sent Ishikawa Jozan's father overseas to join the invasion. To me, it was a worthwhile trade to complicate the father character and create a pretence for Jozan to know more about the real circumstances of the invasion than he might have otherwise. No, the problem came down to one word.


Mimizuka translates as "Mound of Ears," which is in fact a misnomer, for as Hawley relates in his book, it actually contains the buried noses of Korean and Chinese victims that were salted and sent back from Japan as proof to Toyotomi Hideyoshi that his orders were being carried out in Korea. In fact the memorial site was originally given the more accurate name of Hanazuka (Mound of Noses) but was changed later in the seventeenth century, apparently because it somehow seemed less unsavoury to remove ears than noses.

Recalling that I had used the word Mimizuka in the novel, I realized that this was a historical oversight on my part. Considering the trouble I had gone through to have Ishikawa visit the Rokujo Misujimachi pleasure quarter in 1605 rather than the more famed Shimabara because it did not come into being until a few years later, I was somewhat bothered by this mistake. However, I was prepared to leave it as is because Mimizuka would be more familiar to the modern reader.

It was not until I read the passage a second time that a bigger mistake dawned on me. I had not written Mimizuka after all, but Mimi-no-zaka. After checking to make sure it was not also known by this name, I tried to trace the origins of my mistake. The best I could do was to assume that I had mistakenly translated Hill of Ears directly into Japanese as Mimi no zaka, possibly confusing the word saka (slope) with zuka (mound). Realizing I had a factual error on my hands, it now made sense to fix it completely, and change the word to Hanazuka and remove any English references to ears from that section.

While this might seem trivial to some, I think it is worth releasing a revision in this instance. Not only does it make the novel more historically accurate, but it undoes an attempt by someone in the Tokugawa bakufu to somewhat sanitize an ugly incident from Japan's history. Hawley's book actually suggests that it was Hayashi Razan (a friend of Jozan) who made the name change. Given the at times testy relationship between Jozan and Razan in the novel, it only makes sense that Jozan would use the correct, and more accurately descriptive word.

The up-to-date edition number is 1.3. If you bought this book through Apple, you can download the update for free once you receive the alert. If you bought it through Smashwords, you can download it immediately. As for other ebooksellers, I would suggest checking the edition number in the preview to ensure that you are buying the latest version. Thank you again for your support. Every reader matters to me.

The Samurai Poet in OverDrive

This is certainly the best novel-related news I have received all month. The Samurai Poet is now available at OverDrive. If you've never heard of OverDrive, this might not seem like a big deal. If you have ever borrowed an ebook from your local public library, then there is a good chance you were a beneficiary of OverDrive and you didn't even know it. In the past, I have received some library interest in the novel, but once they heard it was not on OverDrive, they were unable to proceed with the acquisition because it was the only ebook service they used. Now that this hurdle has been removed, I'm hopeful that at the very least it will make it on to the virtual shelves of my local library and my hometown library. The day that happens, I will be celebrating it here to be sure.

If you're reading this, please consider requesting The Samurai Poet at your local library. Once they know it's on OverDrive, there is a good possibility they will take your request seriously. I have been a big fan and user of libraries my whole life, and would love the chance to connect with a wider audience via the public library system. Sure it doesn't pay as much, but ultimately it is readers using legitimate channels that matter, not the royalty. I appreciate your help.

TSP Updates #3

I've got some good news and I've got some great news. The good news is that the updated edition of The Samurai Poet is now available at Apple's iBookstore for $2.99 (US). The great news is that if you have already bought it, you can get a free update in iBooks. Look for a little red circle in the bottom right corner with a number in it and take it from there. Enjoy!

TSP Updates #2

The Samurai Poet Edition 1.2 is now available at Barnes & Noble for the new low price of $2.99. Think of it as an amends for having to make any edits in the first place.

TSP Updates #1

The Samurai Poet Edition 1.2 is now available at Smashwords, Oyster, and Scribd. All links available here. Check back soon to learn when Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo release the latest (and cleanest) version.

The Samurai Poet Updated

After months of careful thought, I have decided to upload a lightly revised and edited version of The Samurai Poet. Given the impermanent nature of ebooks compared to published versions, I feel it is important to disclose why I took this step, what kind of changes were made, and to give readers who feel they missed a chance at a cleaner final version to obtain an updated copy. It's a bit of a long story though, so settle in.

During the spring of 2014, I was in need of a bit of a psychological pick-me-up, so I decided to reread part three of The Samurai Poet, entitled "Unity." When I reached the final sentence (or sentence fragment), "Beyond that, the red maples swaying," I panicked because it seemed like there was a huge continuity error. You see, earlier in the chapter the protagonist, Ishikawa Jozan, described seeing fireflies (a summer insect) outside his window. I castigated myself for making such an obvious mistake, and then started to wonder, were there more? This launched a sporadic project to read the novel backwards, one chapter at a time, in the hope that I would be better able to focus on grammar, typos, and (hopefully no more) continuity errors.

Much to my chagrin, there were mistakes. A missing word. A missing punctuation mark. An unnecessary word repetition in consecutive sentences. Nothing on the scale of red leaves in summer, mind you, but enough to rankle and make me want to set things right. Just as I was about to finish the laborious reverse rereading process (I don't recommend it—the book isn't as good read backwards), I lost my eReader with a good half dozen chapters worth of corrections on them and had to do that part again. Finally, I was able to enter the corrections.

Every typo I found was fixed, but I resisted the urge to change anything larger than that should it seem like tampering compared to an earlier edition in a reader's hands. Did I change a couple word repetitions to improve the rhythm of a paragraph? Yes. I also left a large number as is whenever it seemed like it was merely a case of stylistic preference, reasoning that I had my chance the first time around. I also added a Japanese translation for one term given the success my eReaders have had rendering kanji since it helped the reader visualize a scroll Ishikawa wrote in one chapter. All told, I made approximately forty changes. Not bad considering the book is nearly 126 000 words long, but still regrettable given the high editorial standards readers of independent fiction and supporters of independent authors deserve. I would like to apologize for the miscues and the long delay in correcting them.

Ironically, one change I did not make was to the sentence about the red maple leaves. They are still red. Why, you ask? I forget the exact day, but during the summer of 2014, I was standing at my closet getting dressed, when a mental block was inexplicably removed from my mind. I finally remembered that Part 3 of the novel had been intentionally written in a stream of consciousness point of view in which the timelines were intentionally skewed due to Ishikawa's declining mental state. Even though the chapter is written as though it were happening in a 24 hour period, not all of the impressions relayed are necessarily being experienced in real time. Some are memories, others are projections, with the remainder largely being shared as they are experienced. Once I remembered this, I experienced an emotion akin to an epiphany, and realized that present day me was going to have to trust the author I was when I made the decisions that led to the novel in its final form. From then on, I returned my focus to the nitty gritty of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Any reader still with me at this point might be wondering if it is fair to even make changes such as a comma at the end of a set of quotation marks. In my experience, this happens far more often than readers realize in mainstream publishing. For example, when I read John W. Dower's Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II in hardcover, I noted enough small miscues to make me realize the book hadn't been edited with 100% accuracy. When a friend gifted me the softcover edition, I kept it just to compare and saw that most (perhaps all) of the miscues had been corrected. During grad school I also had the fortunate experience to compare A.M. Klein's original manuscripts with published versions of his poems. While I forget the exact details, I recall examples of variances introduced into the published versions that were not in his manuscripts and variances between published versions. We are all human and that likely means that there are fewer "pure" texts out there than we would like to believe. I am hoping that by being honest about the changes I have made, it will help maintain trust between reader and author.

On that note, I have one more confession to make. My latest edition of the novel is no longer labelled "Smashwords Edition." It now reads "Smashwords Edition 1.2." 1.2? But there was no 1.1 was there? Within a week of The Samurai Poet's publication date, I read an article that gave the year a famous gate at Chionji Temple was built as being a few years after I have my character walking by it. After reading the paragraph again, I realized that deleting it would have no affect on the rest of the chapter, so I did so and uploaded the change without notifying anybody. To the best of my knowledge, this change only affected readers who pre-ordered a copy of The Samurai Poet. If you search the word "Chionji" in your copy and it appears in Chapter 11: 1605, you have that rarest edition of all, 1.0. If it does not appear, you have 1.1. Again, I apologize. This was a more substantial change and I shouldn't have tried to hide it.

Now, to make things right. If you own Edition 1.0 or 1.1, I would like to make 1.2 available to you for free. If you bought your copy through Smashwords, you already have access to the updated version as well as the earliest version you first bought. If you bought through Kobo or iBookstore, send me an email (see the Contact Page) and I will send you a coupon for a free copy at Smashwords. In your email, please let me know which bookstore you bought it from (e.g. iBookstore Australia), so that I can check it off my list. I do have a record of how many books were sold (and where) before version 1.2 was uploaded, so this will help me limit any potential abuse of this offer. Thank you for your patience. I hope you enjoy what could be the final version of The Samurai Poet. Of course if you spot a typo, I would be happy to fix it, whether it means we go to a 1.21 or a 1.3. (Please note it could take 1-2 weeks for these changes to be pushed out to all retailers.)

Thanks again for your support and understanding. I hope you find this effort at transparency and restitution satisfactory.

Don't Judge a Book By Its Price

Pricing The Samurai Poet was a difficult dilemma. I’ve created a short FAQ here to explain why $3.99 seems like the sweet spot for an independently published ebook. For readers, I hope it gives you a sense of what price range is fair for ebooks. For writers, I hope to provide food for thought when setting the price of your own ebook.

Q. Publishers sell the ebooks of well-known authors for between $10-14. Is the low price a reflection of its quality?

A. Not at all. Given the fair percentage cut my distributor pays, I receive a royalty that is competitive with what a mainstream author would receive for a hardcover sale.

Q. Why don’t you give your book away for free?

A. The Samurai Poet took me a long time to research, write, and edit. Besides time, I invested a lot of money in computers, software, travel, advertising, and hosting this website. I believe the value proposition for the novel is sound and that it will be well worth your time to read it. While gaining a reader matters more to me than the sale itself, I also feel like I have earned the right to a royalty. That said, like any publisher, I do make an exception for book reviewers.

Q. Are you concerned about piracy?

A. Absolutely. Every illegal download is one less legitimate sale that could give my book credibility in the eyes of ebook retailers planning book promotions. By keeping the price of the novel low, I am hoping to make the thought of piracy irrelevant. If you did read a pirated version, it’s not too late to buy a legitimate copy and post a review to help spread the word.

Q. I’ve seen your book listed at $4.99 at Apple’s iBookstore. What gives?

A. The Samurai Poet is priced in U.S. dollars. When Apple’s Canadian iBookstore performs the currency conversion, it automatically rounds the price up to the nearest .99. I have no control over this. For what it’s worth, Apple keeps a larger percentage too, so once my royalty from them is averaged out with my total royalties, it keeps the final amount in the range of industry standards. For the extra dollar Apple charges, at least you save the hassle of creating a new account with another ebook retailer you might only use once.

Q. Does your book ever go on sale?

A. The regular price of $3.99 does give me the flexibility to join promotions. I occasionally participate in coupon offers on Smashwords and ebook retailers sometimes offer discounts of their own. At $2.99, I still receive a royalty equivalent to a paperback sale, so I don’t mind trying to reach readers who are a bit more price sensitive. Have a look at The Samurai Poet page on this website. You never know if there is a new offer to be found if you search a little.read an e-book week train

The Samurai Poet On Sale

During the winter holidays, I am offering The Samurai Poet for only $2.99 when bought directly through Smashwords (compared to $3.99-$4.99 at major online retailers of ebooks). If you don’t have a Smashwords account yet, you might be asking yourself, is it worth it just to save a dollar or two compared to iBookstore etc.? Besides the cost saving, buying direct from Smashwords gives you unlimited access to all versions of the novel, so you could load it on your iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Kobo reader all for one price. The coupon is good from December 21, 2013 to the end of the day on January 1, 2014. Follow this link and use the code EP99Q. Enjoy!

The Samurai Poet Down Under

Given the close ties Australia and Japan share, I’m pleased to report that The Samurai Poet has been added to three Australian bookstores: Angus & Robertson, Bookworld, and Collins (yes, that’s ABC). New Zealand readers can now buy the book through Paper Plus. If you have ever spent time in Japan and enjoyed the atmosphere in Kyoto, I think you’ll enjoy my novel. Thanks for taking a chance on an unknown author.

TSP Makes it North of the Border

It took a few days, but The Samurai Poet is now available for order in Canada for all Sony Reader Store customers. The link shared on October 30 appears to take you to the American or Canadian store depending on the location it detects from your ISP, so I won’t share it twice. Double check the flag in the top right corner to ensure you’re paying in your local currency. As an added bonus, the Sony Reader Store is the only one that doesn’t mark up the price higher for Canadian customers, so you can enjoy it for $3.99!

TSP in U.S. Sony Reader Store

It might not be entirely fair to say that The Samurai Poet has finally been added to the Sony Reader Store, because I had only been regularly monitoring the Canadian website. Unlike the Apple iBookstore which brings a book live in 51 countries the day of a book’s release, it looks like either a rights issue or a corporate strategy issue prevents a book from being added to every Sony Reader Store simultaneously. So, if you own a Sony Reader in the U.S., my novel is now available here. If you are in Canada, please check back regularly, because I’ll post the link as soon as I see it becomes active.

The Samurai Poet - a Top Seller?

The Samurai Poet debuted at #3 on the Diesel eBook Store historical fiction top seller list. It has since fallen off the charts, so I’ve included a screen grab here as proof. Of course, any help putting the book back on the list would be most appreciated!The Samurai Poet Number 3 Best seller

Six More Booksellers Added

The Samurai Poet has been added to six more on-line stores in five countries. Thanks to Chapters Indigo, La Fetrinelli, fnac, Inktera, Livraria Cultura, and Versent for carrying the novel. Links to all booksellers are arranged alphabetically here.

The Samurai Poet Now Available

I couldn’t let this day pass without noting that The Samurai Poet is now on sale worldwide in ebook format. My only wish is that the novel finds its audience.

TSP Added to Kobo

It’s hard to believe how widely The Samurai Poet will be distributed for its October 11 launch. Here are the links for Kobo Canada and Kobo Japan (Rakuten). If you reside in another country, it looks like the site will localize automatically for you. The $2.99 USD list price is also being converted at fair exchange rates (e.g. $3.09 in Canada).

TSP in iBookstore Too

The Samurai Poet is also available for pre-order in Apple’s iBookstore. Due to exchange rate differences and Apple’s round-up-to-the-next-.99 pricing policy, Canadian buyers will be charged $3.99 during the pre-order period and $4.99 when the price goes up after Canadian Thanksgiving. Sorry about the slightly higher price, but it’s beyond my control.

TSP Now Available for B&N Nook

I’ve got some great news to share about The Samurai Poet. It is now available for pre-order at the Barnes & Noble website. If you have a Nook, you can save $1 by ordering the novel before October 11. Thanks for your support.

Lots of Work on Labour Day

Yesterday was a big day in the process of publishing The Samurai Poet. The final version was submitted for conversion to the most popular ebook formats and a publication date of Friday, October 11, 2013 was set. I was going to wait a couple days before announcing these details here, but I noticed that people are already downloading samples, so it seemed like the right time to share the news.

The book will be available for the reduced price of $2.99 during the pre-order phase. On Monday, October 14, 2013 (Canadian Thanksgiving), the order to raise the price to $3.99 will be placed, after which it will take 1-5 days to be pushed through the system. As the novel is listed with each retailer, I will share the links here.

If you would like to download a sample today, please follow this link.

Better Late Than Never

I am pleased to announce that a longer preview of The Samurai Poet has been added to the Downloads page. Most recently, I had promised to have this ready in August, but ended up devoting the month to formatting the entire novel, not just the first four chapters. Thank you for your patience.

For the moment, it is only available in the epub format. If anyone is interested in obtaining it in a pdf or mobi format, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do. The pdf would be fairly easy to produce, but I’m less certain about the mobi.

Please note that my software only supports epub 2.0, so some of the Japanese characters included in the novel display as empty boxes. Fortunately, epub 3.0 supports Japanese, so when the complete novel is published, character rendering should no longer be an issue. In the meantime, here is a list of the missing characters from the chapter 1589:

eternity -
big -
mouth -
person -
tree -
convex -
concave -
tea -

In Search of the Geisha Added

Another epub story has been added to the Downloads page. This one is more of a travelogue. The epub workflow is getting a lot easier now that I’ve figured out the work around mentioned in the previous post. The one thing that was different this time is that I had to enter the page breaks for the chapter headings to start on a fresh page inside the eReader. Don’t know why and don’t care, just as long as it works for you as well.

On another note, I had originally promised to have a longer excerpt of The Samurai Poet uploaded by the end of July. Due to the problems getting “Fushigi Meeting” ready, that date might be pushed back to early August. I realize a couple days isn’t a big deal, but it’s better to be up front about these things.

First Epub Document Is Up

Well, it took me far longer than necessary, but I have finally figured out how to export an epub document with a photographic cover using Pages. What sounds like a simple task turned into a frustrating exercise that required me to break all the rules before I could be successful. Turns out the best way to ensure that your cover exports properly is to put it on page 2, leave page 1 blank, then check the box that says “Use first page as book cover image.” Who would have guessed?

To the best of my knowledge, “Fushigi Meeting” can now be downloaded and read on any eReading device that supports the epub file format. In other words, if you have an iPad, Kobo, Nook, or Sony Reader you’re in luck. If you use a Kindle, you’ll have to convert the file first. If you give the story a try, please let me know if any technical glitches arise since I was only able to test it with a Kobo. Hope you enjoy the story.